Cover Image: The Spear Cuts Through Water

The Spear Cuts Through Water

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Member Reviews

First, a big thanks to #NetGalley and #RandomHouseBallantine for the free book #TheSpearCutsThroughWater - the opinions are my own.

I don't quite know where to begin. I have no words to adequately describe the creative format of this story. As the blurb says, I've never read anything like it. And to be honest, it took me a bit to get into the flow and get past thinking "this is weird". Because after a few pages, weird became brilliant. Told in 1st/2nd/3rd person at various times, some might find that off-putting. Don't let it stop you from trying this book. It's handled so deftly and is so intrinsic to the story, I can't imagine another way to tell it. 

In the most simplistic terms it's the epic story of five days in the life of 2 young men as they take an ancient god across the country to try to end the rule of the tyrannical royal family. The main plot is of the two warriors and their trek and is told in 3rd person; the secondary plot is told in 2nd person and pulls you out of that story a bit as the narrator relates bits of his life in the 'current' time; then the genius part is the random 1st person comments dropped into the narrative as exclamation points from a unspecified character about the current events. Hmmmm. I think if I read what I just wrote in a review, I would take a pass on the book. Please don't. The characters are wonderfully drawn, and  following the relationship between Keema and Jun is a pleasure.

The plot is not particularly complex. The storytelling is. It's complex, and beautiful, and thought provoking. Part myth/legend/folklore, this is not a book to breeze through, but one to relish and savor. I wouldn't say it's a particularly quick read, not because of the page count, but because of the depth of the story. A treasure of a book. Be sure to read it.
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What a startlingly original story. Breathtaking, other worldly and exceptionally written. This is the most unique writing style and story I've read this year and in a very long time.

I feel so honored to have read this book! If you like high fantasy's that need your full attention to truly appreciate the message, this is for you!

Thank you NetGalley and Simon Jiminez for the eARC in exchange for my honest review.
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This was a uniquely told story that caught me off guard. The telling bounces from first person, to second, to third, as well as telling a story within a story. It took me a bit to understand what was going on and the chapters are very long, with the 'Before' chapter the length of a novella. At times I still didn't quite understand the flow of things, most of the book takes place over five days but there would be references to things happening over several days that didn't line up. Maybe I just misunderstood? I'll definitely have to reread this at some point and see if it makes more sense.

The main characters are Jun and Keema, who are tasked with getting the god to freedom and stopping her horrible sons for good. I liked both characters and seeing their relationship evolve over the journey. There's not really enough romance for me to tag it, but there's something there and I hoped the guys would get their happy ending.

For a longer book, this was quick paced and felt a lot shorter. I really enjoyed this one and will be looking into the author's other works.

There are a few gruesome scenes, particularly cannibalism, that readers may want to be aware of. There's also death, dismemberment, and overall violence. Check content warnings on the book's page if you have any concerns.

I voluntarily read and reviewed this book. All opinions are my own. Thank you to Del Rey Books and NetGalley for the copy
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The Spear Cuts Through Water was my first introduction to author Simon Jimenez. I could immediately see why he is so celebrated. However, his style of writing is simply not what I prefer to read. If you like literary fiction and surreal non-linear chapters, then you will probably love it! His voice is unique and and his writing is fresh, but it just wasn't for me.
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Wow, 4.5⭐️ that may get rounded up to 5 depending on how this sits with me. What an amazing undertaking, a nice thick book that a review cannot possibly explain. The structure of the book and the writing were truly next level, incredibly skillful and unique. Bravo Jimenez! I Loved the characters, so fleshed out and real, even those we saw only snapshots of, I felt I knew them well with just a few short sentences of explanation. 

Then the plot - I was confused for the first 10% then had the "oh that's what you are doing, ok, yaaa I like that!" moment around that point and really loved it up until maybe 50%. It felt like the intermission was slowing the plot down a bit too much, but it did build my anticipation so ok, successfully done on the authors part. And then at the 70% mark up until the end I just couldn't stop, and was thinking about what would happen while I wasn't reading.  

The book is long but worth it, and so unique, a great ride. Excited to read more from Jimenez.
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This was an exceptional read in every way. The style, the voice, the story - all exceptions to all rules. This is not a read that everyone will appreciate, but if you give yourself a chance to get comfortable in Jimenez's storytelling, it is so easy to fall in love with the characters. The cadence of the style becomes easier as you read and you stop losing track of who is talking and where you are in time. I won't say you have to "suffer" through the first few sections, because it's not that intense; but if you aren't open to Jimenez's rhythm, I can imagine this story would be painful to get through. That being said, if you are open and able, this story will stay with you for a long time after you finish it. It's beautifully and completely told, with fully developed lore and so many voices that every detail is clear. As you follow the warriors through their quest, paired with "your" journey watching the story unfold, you can't help but become invested in how it all ends. It truly is a love story in the deepest way. I cannot recommend highly enough that readers take on this challenge - it's worth the reward. 

**Thank you NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine for the eARC**
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I genuinely don’t know where to start or how to review this book. The Spear Cuts Through Water is a book unmatched in storytelling and delivery and definitely my favourite book of the year. Despite it being told in a way I’m not accustomed to or done in other books, I’m in awe of how everything blended together to form a gripping story after a couple of pages.

This book releases today and I’m hoping my review urges you to pick up this book and be immersed into this fresh world. Albeit it will not be everyone’s cup of tea but I do ask you to be patient with the story and let it guide you with the flow.

“For you are the Moon who cursed us with this gift.”

story within a story
I’m honestly a huge fan of this form of storytelling done right. It sets up the right stakes and there’s so much to explore, like peeling off layers of the story. Conveying multiple nested stories until it all clicks together is an art, one Simon Jimenez has mastered. There are several perspectives involved along with the use of 1st, 2nd and 3rd person to provide for all the twists and emotional impacts in the story. The summary doesn’t do this book justice, because as you’re introduced to the Inverted Theater, it’s as if you as a reader are witnessing the story unfold in that theater along with the unnamed narrator who is being told these stories about the Old World. And even though we hear from the minor characters, it doesn’t seem unnecessary, just something to help solidify the gravity of events.

an epic fantasy at it’s core
Through the unnamed narrator we witness the main storyline, about two warriors Jun, the grandson of the emperor and Keema, the disabled guard, who are roped into a quest to rescue a god from The Moon Throne, the tyrannical rulers of their land. With folklore woven effortlessly into the magic, action and setting of the story, The Spear Cuts Through Water has all elements of a fantasy world but the kind that’s surreal and unhinged in all those aspects. And a violent kind too, as the book definitely has gory themes but they perfectly fit into the characterization and world of the novel.

Speaking of characters, I was immediately invested in Jun and Keema’s dynamic and the pure yearning they develop for each other. I loved being opened up to their complicated personalities, from reluctant travel companions to their love for each other.

In fact most of the characters are very clearly imagined with necessary contributions to the plot, Simon Jimenez definitely has a knack for rooting characters into the reader’s brain within a short time.

observes the manifestation of love
We’re hit with the quote above at a point in the story where the narrator’s grandmother tells it to him and it accurately pierces the core of the story. We not only have a compelling and violent love story between the two protagonists but also see how love drives people’s actions, good and bad, and serves as a ray of hope. It’s brilliant how most of the characters are motivated by their want or scorn for love and Jimenez’s mind portrays the consequences for both in a fabulous way.

brilliantly imagined
As a huge lover of mythology and folklore in novels, I found the narrative of The Spear Cuts Through Water so engaging. It has an incredible and expressive prose, and with all the plot twists incoming reading this book was nothing short of a cinematic experience. Even though there was a lot to absorb, at times I was just left stunned by the writing and the emotion behind the sentences. Stunning imageries littered here and there left me in awe.

I was so intrigued by the history of the world and the glimpses we get of it through Jun and Keema’s five day journey — and it’s not just a couple of perspectives but we get insights from the most insignificant characters in first person. I would normally be put off by it but I realised how well this structure worked for the novel as I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I loved Simon Jimenez’s previous work, The Vanished Birds, and I’m happy to say that this too is a masterpiece and I hope he keeps serving. The Spear Cuts Through Water is an exhilarating and glorious tale, that if you’re hooked onto, will have you at the edge of your seat. It’s an ambitious and unconventional fantasy novel with heavy themes (check CWs) and a strange exploration of perspectives that might challenge readers, but I truly hope it finds its way to the ones who would appreciate the substance of the story!
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An Epic Fantasy Folktale

In this story within a story, two young warriors are tasked with taking an ancient god across a land ruled by a tyrannical emperor, the Smiling Sun, and his three sons. Each of the sons is hungry for power and worse than the last. The quest takes five days, each described in a section. These sections are not like regular chapters and are very long. 

The first section of the book sets up the scene. It’s a story telling session where the Lola tells stories of the past. This is the part that gives the feeling of an elder telling folktales. It sets the scene well, but is a bit slow, and it’s long. 

This is an intricately plotted book. The author has done an excellent job introducing the reader to not only the main characters, but many minor characters as well. He has given each character a unique voice which I found excellent. Although the world Jimenez creates is brutal, he pulls you into it. All the brutality makes sense in the world he has created. 

If you enjoy fantasy this is a book you may like. It isn’t for everyone, however. It’s long and detailed, and the author switches voices. This can by hard to follow, but it also adds a depth to the story that is quite remarkable.

The Vanished Birds, Jiminez’s earlier novel, is quite different, but if you enjoyed that one, this one is worth trying. 

I received this book from Penguin Random House for this review.
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Real Rating: 4.75* of five, rounded up for ambition and talent rewarding purposes

How do you read your books? Tree book, ebook, ear reading? Where are you when you experience the stories you consume...bed, chair, front seat of the car, public transportation? All of these factors will come into play while experiencing this read.

I myownself am an obligate librocubicularist. It was a little challenging at first, reading this magisterially paced polyphony while within easy reach of the off switches on all my lighting devices. I was lights-out far more than once in the first quarter, maybe because I wasn't sure this story was going somewhere I entirely wanted to go. Especially as there's a hefty salting of second-person narration to endure as the price for learning how love animates and exculpates both lover and belovèd. What one receives for this benison bestowed on the narrative is a story of the impossibility of eternal power, unending dominance, unchallenged imperium. In the end, glory is fleeting because humans are ephemeral.

The roles we accept, and even eagerly seek, aren't unique to us. I think Jung was by far the closest to grasping the eternal truth when he posited archetypes, those massively misunderstood and mischaracterized patterns of being. But each of us seems to seek a pattern, a focus of individuation, and that seems or feels to us and to others as an inevitable end-point of a life-long search. Is it? It is for Jun and for Keema, whose story this (ultimately) is.

Echoes from a distant past? This story is. Explicitly. Designs for a present? This story is, not so explicitly though. It's decolonization writ personal; it's the massive machinery of culture caught in the tsunami of rage arising from inequality. It's deep, and very dark, and shot through with the awful truth of violence. It's just like, in other words, the real world around you.

Jun and Keema, the men whose love animates the story from beginning to end, aren't going to do the wild thing for your amusement. They are going to manifest for you the eternal story of accepting the love patiently offered you, in spite of believing you're not worthy of it. If you believe you're not worthy, you aren't; because the offering is not to you, but to the one you will become with the gift accepted.

That's not a truth I expected to see made so plain in a fantasy novel. A lot gets heaped on all the players in this astoundingly violent tale. It's shocking what hatred, spurned love, multivalent deprivation will drive a person to enact on the world. It's far and away the hardest of life's lessons to see that without one's own rage obscuring the real source of the problem. Othering and disempowering might be the means to gaining temporary, temporal acquiescence. They do nothing to improve the long-term odds of success for those who Other, who disempower, who use their own weapons against those they need to succeed. Those who use the weapon forget the other edge, the power of the spirit.

And that is the ultimate truth of the spear, the artifact and symbol of the disempowered, the metaphor for power as it is transferred in the world of rank and division. It is, in its very nature, a symbol of what enables leaders to become dictators. It is supremely easy to pass the spear on through family lines. It is always the case that the spear is turned against its user.

Never forget that. Who lives by the sword, dies by it as readily.

But Jun? His Keema keeps him safe from the spear. In spite of everything they've seen, they've been to and for and against each other, Keema is the one whose patient offering of love never wavers even when it morphs. That's how you know it's the love Jun needs, and that's how Jun finally knows he is not Jun, but Keema's Jun.

No one who has the patience, the fortitude not to check out of its reality back into ours, to read this uniquely told story will leave it the same person as they entered it. That's the best thing I can thnk of to say about a story.
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Sprawling and orginal. This book is epic.  I’ve never read this author before, but getting this ARC has added yet another author on my list to watch for.  It reminded me of the fantasy stories I grew up reading.
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I’ll admit that I came to this story expecting something like The Vanished Birds, and that expectation failed almost immediately. That isn't a bad thing.

If you are looking for a fantasy quest, The Spear has got your back. Our main plot follows Jun and Keema, on a mission to protect the Moon Goddess as she destroys the reign of her murderous sons, the Three Terrors. Under their rule the land has become a desperate and starving country, unsafe to travel alone, even for a goddess. We’ve got a broken turtle who can smell feelings, a purple bird whose love language is violence, and spliff smoking Apes for all your fantasy creature needs. There are sword fights and a battle with a giant, really a one-stop shop for fantasy fare.

But Spear isn’t just a run-of-the-mill fantasy. This is a story about identity in the face of obligation, an homage to the immigrant family, and, above all, a demand to be seen. Jimenez takes real risks to deliver a vulnerable and honest look into his mind, indulging his creativity for maximum reward. Although the narrative style takes some getting used too, it lends the story a sense of intimacy and depth that could not have been achieved with a more traditional structure.

Overall, I enjoyed this story immensely. Jimenez has a talent for making fantastical situations relatable and injecting humor in the most unexpected ways. (If you don’t laugh during the bear scene, I have to ask why you are so opposed to joy.) My only real issue was the climax being drawn out for far too long, certain aspects felt redundant, which lessened my enjoyment. Even so, this is a tale meant to be read again, if only for the prose, and I look forward to that experience in the near future. 

This book will not be for everybody, it is challenging in ways that will turn off some readers. I recommend this book for seasoned fantasy readers, seeking an ambitious story that is heavily influenced by oral story telling traditions.
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This book is pure storytelling!   I loved this book.  You might need patience to get going but the creativity and beauty of this book are so worth it!
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This is one of the most interesting and original books I’ve read this year! When I first sat down to read this book I wasn’t sure what to expect. It was such a nice surprise to learn that the author is Filipino-American like myself! Additionally, the unique narration made it feel like it truly was my lola recounting the myths of our family’s past. The tale Jimenez weaves is intricate and emotional, consisting of stories within stories and overlapping perspectives. Does this style make it hard to follow if you’re not invested? Perhaps. But I think that it emphasizes the point that everyone’s story is important and worth hearing, from our heroes to characters that appear once. The Spear Cuts Through Water is everything I want in a fantasy book and more; It’s a love story, a mythic quest, and the writing is challenging yet thoughtful.  It is a refreshing and much-needed step in the right direction for fantasy literature.
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An imaginative and unique tale, an experience unlike any I've had reading a fairy tale. Thank you to Random House and Netgalley for the ARC!
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Content Warning:
- Serious gore at times
- A few mentions of rape and non-consensual body modification
- Cannibalism 

Jimenez does not pull any punches in this book. It tells the history of a people and that is often times violent and messy. If any of these make you uncomfortable then please put your mental health first and reconsider reading this novel.

The Spear Cuts Through Water is Simon Jimenez’s second published novel. Perfect for fans of N K Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, the main narrative is relayed to you in the second person perspective by various characters. Two disgraced warriors of the empire, a grandson of the emperor and a guard missing his left arm, must bring a lost god across the country to restore her power and end the all-powerful dynasty that she began centuries ago. But a lineage this strong will not go down without a fight. This novel speaks to the power of history and ancestry while also being told outside of time, this is a tough balance to keep but Jimenez does it perfectly. 

The imagery that Jimenez uses along with the second-person perspective immerses you in the book in a way few others have. There were times that I felt like I could smell lola’s cigarette or hear father slam the door. The author brings these elements together to evoke the feeling of sitting with your older family members as they teach you your history as a family and as a people. The prose itself is so beautiful and meaningful that there were times I highlighted a passage just so that I could sit with it for a moment and think. The prose doesn’t hold up the pacing or make things too convoluted. 

I felt like Jimenez truly captured the character of a force of nature in his writing. The Moon does not care about individual people unless they can help her, she craves worship to the point that it actively derails her plans and puts others in danger, she refuses to take responsibility for the ‘gifts’ she gave that might have hurt people, and she is selfish without considering any other being’s needs. Yet she is still the moon and we still need her to function. No human can hold a grudge against her because she is so clearly inhuman.

The pining in this novel was just the cherry on top for me. Same-sex relationships are not exactly accepted in this world while also not being illegal and both characters recognize and have internalized this messaging. Jimenez plays into this cautious tension amazingly. The stolen glances, the duels, the denial of caring for each other even when it's obvious. This is the kind of story that I live for.

The disability representation in this novel was fantastic. One of the main characters does not have a left arm and in the culture, he lives in, that is often a punishment for cowards or criminals. This knowledge complicates his relationships and interactions with others along with the physical adaptations he must make to work around his amputation. At no point in the book is he magically healed, nor does he truly want to be. 

Small spoiler warning here for something that happens at the end of the book: It meant so much to see that when restored to his body, Keema was still missing his arm. That alone would have been enough for me but when another character comments on it, asking why he was not ‘made whole again’, Keema’s response of “I am whole” genuinely made me tear up a bit. It was such as small moment that speaks so loudly to disabled readers, saying you are enough, you are whole.
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DNF at 55% - this book is SOMETHING ELSE and I was really enjoying it. The format, the cinematic nature of it? Just great. My issue is with how much it drags and the chapter structure (or lack thereof). I may pick this up again, but today just wasn't its day.
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I'm honestly at a loss for words when thinking about how to describe this book and my experience reading it. So, I guess I'll just start at the beginning. For the first quarter or so, I did not like this book AT ALL. I considered DNFing it multiple times because I had no idea what was happening. The story has a very unique structure that utilizes first, second, and third person narration without much to mark the different voices apart. It took me forever to realize the story (told in third person) was being watched by someone (the second person narrator) in a theater during a dream with occasional narrative input from people the characters met along the way (first person). Knowing this going in would have greatly reduced my confusion and improved my reading experience of the first part of the book. So, you're welcome. :) I was probably just too dense to figure it out, but in case you're dense too, I saved you the effort. lol.

Once I discerned what was going on, I quickly fell in love with the story. The prose was stunning and had a lyrical quality that kept me glued to the pages. The world came alive and seemed to leap into being as if I was the one in the dream. The plot consistently surprised me, and I was incredibly impressed with the author's ability to create a complex, moving story with so many different parts and voices. The pace also picked up considerably once everything got under way at approximately the 25% mark, and it became relentlessly more intense with a wide assortment of adventures filled with violence, magic, mind-reading, and a bit of humor. There was even a good deal of cannibalism, which seriously made my skin crawl. By the end, I was in awe of how it all came together, with even seemingly small details from earlier in the narrative being tied together in ways I never expected.

I became very attached to the characters, which was probably a bad idea given the intense levels of violence in this book. They were all vibrant and multi-faceted, and I especially loved how the author managed to make even the minor side characters seem well-rounded and deep despite some of them only having a few scenes. I enjoyed following the main duo on their adventure and began rooting for them pretty early on in the story. Their slow-burn romance was one of my favorite things about the book, and it led to some pretty hilarious scenes involving mind-reading. My other favorite character was the tortoise. I'm not going to say too much about him because of spoilers, but I absolutely adored him. He made me smile every time he spoke despite his unfortunate circumstances.

One of the main themes about the book was acceptance/belonging. Most of the characters were outcasts in their own way and were driven to some extent by their longing for connection and inclusion. So many of the stories were absolutely heart-breaking, especially the Third Terror. On a related note, most of this narrative revolved around a love story, and I don't just mean the central slow-burn romance of Jun and Keema. Almost every character was motivated by love (not necessarily romantic), either the desire to obtain it or the anger from being spurned. It beautifully highlighted both the redeeming and destructive powers of love.

This book was an absolutely stunning work of art. I've never read anything quite like it before. It used common tropes in unique ways to tell a story that felt simultaneously familiar and fresh. It felt profound while reading it even though I couldn't quite put my finger on why, and the more I think about it now, the more lessons and themes jump out at me. The story was beautiful, and it is one I will think about for a while to come. Therefore, I rate it 5 out of 5 stars.
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As you read this, you will realize you are reading something that is destined to become a classic. The Spear Cuts Through Water is going to be taught as an example of truly excellent epic fantasy. The world is fully realized, with all the magic and menace being palpable as you read through the story. This is the concept of an epic quest taken to a truly beautiful level of skill. I could gush for hours about how glorious everything here is. The union of nature, myth, and faith all smash into an element of the surreal. I don't even want to talk about the plot (which flows excellently and moves with the exact right speed). The plotting is excellent, and I don't want to spoil a moment of the slow, gorgeous reveals. Seriously, everything about this book is genuinely beautiful.
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Ohmygods this book. Read, you must read this book.

At first I really, reeeaallly did not understand, and so could not get into, the writing style. The brief asides of supporting characters' POVs was super confusing at the start. However, once that sorted itself, and their echo of a Greek chorus become apparent, which echoes the dream play itself taking place throughout the book, I was stunned, and that feeling did not stop until I reluctantly turned the last page.

This is one of the best books I have ever read. I wish I could be more descriptive, but I'm honestly still shook like a week after finishing it, and unfortunately no more coherent. Jimenez had Big aspirations, and the reverberations in me feel just as profound.
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I'm not sure I even have the vocabulary to talk about this book properly. This is literary fantasy at a very high level. This book demands the reader's attention and requires concentrated, detailed reading on every page. As I was in a somewhat distracted state when I started this, it took me some time to really sink into the story and the storytelling. Jimenez is an incredible world-builder, and his characters are unforgettable. The structure is unconventional and yet fits the novel perfectly. I could tell you what this book is "about", but you can read the blurb and still be completely unprepared for the journey this will take you on. Creative, sweeping, expressive, this saga will stay with me long after the last page. Thank you to NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group - Ballantine, Del Rey for a digital review copy.
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